Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on Monday became the first 2020 presidential candidate to lay out a plan to combat lead contamination following a visit to Flint, Mich.
In the proposal, first reported by BuzzFeed News, Castro calls for the creation of a presidential task force to “eliminate lead poisoning as a major public health threat” and assess which communities are at particular risk.
Castro would also reportedly ask Congress for $5 billion annually for 10 years to replace lead pipes and handle other materials possibly contaminated with lead, such as paint and soil, as well as $100 million per year to put toward preventing child lead poisoning.
“Today I’m putting forward a plan to combat lead exposure across the country, and to ensure that no families experience what those in Flint have had to endure,” Castro said in a statement to BuzzFeed, referencing the lead that leached into the drinking water in the Michigan city and exposed more than 100,000 residents to potential contamination after state and city officials switched the source from the Detroit River to the Flint River.
The plan features provisions for mandatory lead testing for children 2 years old and younger as well as counseling and tutoring on nutritional needs.
Castro’s plan would also take steps to correct the federal response to the Flint crisis, including asking Congress to alter a federal rule that bars national disaster declarations for man-made circumstances. The plan would also develop rules allowing for better communication between federal, local and state agencies in case of an elevated lead crisis, according to BuzzFeed.
Then-President Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint in 2016, during Castro’s tenure as HUD secretary.